You do not have to look far to see pigeons in Downtown La Crosse. A big price tag has been put on cleaning up the messes those pigeons are leaving behind.
Last Monday night, the La Crosse Board of Public Works approved $33,000 for pigeon waste cleanup.
"We have an issue with some pigeons roosting above the retail buildings in the Main Street Ramp," said James Flottmeyer, Parking Utility Coordinator for the City of La Crosse.
According to Flottmeyer, the problem is more than 20 years in the making. The rooftops once separated from the ramp by a divider are now the place many pigeons call home.
"Over the years, they've pecked at the insulation to get in on top of the roofs," Flottmeyer said.
The problem caught the attention of city officials this summer.
"When we had that big rain event at the end of July. Seven inches," Flottmeyer said. "It caused some problems, because there's enough of it up there when it got wet, then it gave off an odor."
Aside from an odor, the pigeon waste poses health risks to people passing by.
"There are potential health issues with any concentration of animal droppings, including pigeon droppings," said James Cherf, Owner of By James Gallery. "So, people should dispose of and handle those droppings in an appropriate fashion."
The clean up is expected to begin at the end of the month. Crews will work to reseal the space between the parking ramp and the business roofing.
"The general public won't notice the difference at all," Flottmeyer said. "It's happening in a confined space between the roof and the bottom of the ramp. So, the cleaning companies will come in, hose down the pigeon droppings that are up there to keep the dust down. Then, they'll use brooms and shovels to haul it all out."
With no clear timeline set, business owners hope the repairs are finished before winter hits.
"We are a small city in the middle of the wilderness, so we have lots and lots of food sources for pigeons outside of the city," Cherf said. "When it starts getting to be more inclimate weather, a lot of these birds do come into our community to harbor."
The cleanup is by no means a final solution, but it is yet another way the downtown community is coming together to address the pigeon population.
"It's unrealistic to expect that we'll ever be able to eradicate pigeons in our downtown area short of eradicating the species," Cherf said.
This is the second year Downtown Mainstreet, Inc. is using the pigeon-feed contraceptive program to lower numbers of the local pigeon population.
Cherf reminds people that La Crosse does enforce a no feeding policy in city parks. Feeding the pigeons attracts them into the downtown area and encourages population growth. The no feeding policy also extends to squirrels and other wildlife.